Ehud Lazin

Fantastic Cat at Brooklyn Made / June 7, 2024

Less than three hours before showtime, Don DiLego sat down to share some pasta with touring keyboard player Michael Hesslein. There was a sense of calm here before the storm, even as bandmate Anthony D’Amato slid in across the table. Fantastic Cat was about to kick of their 2024 summer tour with a record-launch show for their newest effort, Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat at Brooklyn Made. There were already fans filing in across the street, unaware that the band, including Brian Dunne and Mike Montali, were kicking back and taking stock of where they’ve been and where they’re going. “I’ve never not been the person in charge, and when you do that for your whole life, I think that you get horse blinders on,” DiLego said of going from solo artist to bandmate. “But I don’t think there’s a single song that one of us has brought in that isn’t better for all of us having contributed to it.”

As discussed in my recent piece on the band, Fantastic Cat is a composite of artists from different musical acts and backgrounds, but on this night, their solidarity is on display not only in their music – a pop/Americana hybrid – but their look: matching white-suits and shiny white shoes. Moving, leaping, grooving as one, they switch instruments throughout, a seamless flow of new lead singers and drummers. It’s a visual and aural assault worthy of major headliners, a multi-layered showbiz extravaganza. With apologies to the late, great Lenny Bruce, this is not a band – this is Fantastic Cat.

In the end, beyond the glitz and glamour, Fantastic Cat is all about the music and tonight they roll out one banger after the other, many brand-new songs that drive home their darkly pitched humor of self-flagellation and gleeful ennui, and a rather infectious crowd-pleasing acoustic cover of “Stayin’ Alive” to help wayward cats from local animal shelters find a home. All of it pristinely performed with honeyed harmonies and harmonic dexterity.

Achieving this balanced measure of purpose has changed its members perspective on songwriting, performance, and as Brian Dunne told me backstage preparing for this onslaught, embracing Fantastic Cat as a safe place of creative cohesion. “My dream was always to do what we do, to play in a rock band, and have a blast every night,” Dunne said with a smile. “I love solo performing, I really do, but it’s intense, it’s intimate, it’s connected, but it’s a blissful, joyful, orgasm of fun…. that’s a band. And that’s why I like it; when we nail it, it is the best feeling I’ve ever had.”

This orgasm of fun is currently invading the nation. It did on this night in Brooklyn.

Photos by Ehud Lazin